The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 13, 2013

Officials not respecting the voters

Daily Item

---- — Legislators, whether they are serving in Washington D.C. or Harrisburg, are sent as voices of the people they represent back home.

Unfortunately it seems that elected leaders are often more interested in their own well-being, taking care of their pensions or just having grand old time.

A report by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog group, states that nearly half of the members of the U.S. Congress are millionaires. The net worth for senators was more than $2.5 million in 2012 while the net worth of House members tripled from 1984 to 2009. Public service obviously is quite lucrative.

The disconnect between elected officials and the real-world people they work for is now creeping closer to home.

Last week a group of 17 Harrisburg lawmakers, including our own Kurt Masser, gathered in a restaurant to raise money for the American Cancer Society by participating in an eating contest. A little gluttonous to be sure, but for a good cause, right? The group managed to raise more than $8,500 for the Cancer Society.

The fact that lobbyists foot the bill is a little bit tough to swallow (no pun intended). That's not quite as bad as the visual of public servants gathering to eat something that most of their constituents can only rarely afford — prime rib.

Politics is often about perception. What a lawmaker views as a positive event to raise money for a worthy cause can easily be turned on its head by the simple decision to consume $700 worth of prime rib rather than $75 in hot dogs or hot wings or whipped-cream pies. What makes politics difficult is that it isn't always up to the politician to make the final decision on how something is perceived. Political opponents and the media have a say in the interpretation.

The questions are simple: Why do elected officials feel like they are more privileged than their voters? Do they feel like they are entitled, or better than the people they represent?

Tonal separation between leaders and their constituents, it is not good for democracy. Elected leaders need to remain tuned into public sentiment.

These officials are charged with watching over us, representing their districts and residents.

But who watches over them? What is the check to their balance?

This isn't about prime rib eating contests. It is about respect to the voters.